The history of a pack of beagles and its connection with iron ore mining is being traced in a new book.
Professor Michael Jefferson follows Pipewell Foot Beagles and has used diaries and interviews with more than 140 people to trace its history.
Pipewell Foot Beagles was started by Noel Lloyd, of Stewarts & Lloyds fame, whose family lived in Sudborough Manor before moving to Pipewell Hall, near Kettering, in 1920.
Prof Jefferson said: “Noel went to school in Oundle and while he was there he came across an older man, Harry Overman, who had beagles and this created his interest.”
In 1927 Noel, Harry and two others went to a beagle sale in Leicester and bought 10 beagles and were given six more.
They took them back to Pipewell where Harry was sent in to explain the sudden arrival of the hounds to Noel’s father, who knew nothing about the trip. They had their first outing in September, 1927.
The first aerial meeting was in November, 1929, when more than 40 planes arrived at Sywell airport, including the head of UK Civil Aviation and visitors from Devon, Southampton and London.
Although Noel’s family was involved in iron ore quarrying, Noel’s diaries make great play of the devastation caused to the countryside by the quarrying. Noel seems to have been more interested in his beagles than his work.
Prof Jefferson said: “In 1933 he is described as the manager for iron ore quarrying for Corby district. Two years later he asked the father of Faith Atha for her hand in marriage. Her father, who was a director at Stewarts & Lloyds and a colleague of Noel’s father, had no idea who he was.”
The conflict between Noel’s passion for his beagles and his work was resolved when Bill Hill was employed as a kennel man and then huntsman – a connection that lasted for more than 50 years until Mr Hill died in 1980.
Prof Jefferson describes Noel as “a bit of a dandy. He was tall and blond with a blond moustache. On one occasion he took the hounds to Norfolk and slept outside with them even though there was a hotel nearby.
“He used to carry a 10ft steel pole with him when he went hunting so he could vault five-bar gates. On one occasion a hare swam across the River Nene so Noel jumped in, in all his clothes, and swam across, the hounds following. The hare escaped.”
When petrol rationing started to bite during the Second World War the hounds were transported in a cart pulled by a horse called Black Bess before she was replaced by a pony that proved to be more placid.
Noel was killed in a car crash in 1944. Prof Jefferson said: “He was being driven back from inspecting mines in Barrowden when his car came round a corner and ran into an American military convoy that was coming the other way. His chauffeur, Alfred Turner, who came from Desborough, was killed outright. Noel died in the ambulance.”
His widow, Faith, continued to be involved with Pipewell Foot Beagles until 1957.
The hounds still meet from October to March and the joint masters are Stephen Reynolds and Philip Garlick. Mr Reynolds has carried on one particular tradition. Prof Jefferson said: “He swam across a river as well, the Welland this time. Unlike Noel he had his mobile in his pocket and it got ruined.”
The hunt has its own songbook and song, written by Frank Taylor, who was secretary for many years.
Prof Jefferson said: “It is a very sociable pastime. On Boxing Day more than 200 people came out with us, they are all ages and all sorts, people bring their children in pushchairs and some of our members are in their 70s and they still run after the hounds. Very few of us go to see a hare being killed, it’s about the cameraderie and a love of the countryside.”
Prof Jefferson hopes to publish his book in October.